Sad time for panel beater driven out by insurance companies

Sorensen’s Ipswich Guard and Body Sevice is closing after 63 years in Business. (clockwise from front) Harry, Mel, Gary, Ken and Matt Sorensen.
Sorensen’s Ipswich Guard and Body Sevice is closing after 63 years in Business. (clockwise from front) Harry, Mel, Gary, Ken and Matt Sorensen.

WHEN Ipswich Guard and Body Service first started repairing motor cars back in 1953 big block Chevy's, Morris Minors and FJ Holdens were rolling off the production line.

Now some 63 years later, the owners of that business, the Sorensen family, have made the tough decision to close the doors.

A large, yellow for-sale sign went up last week announcing the decision at the panel and paint business in West Ipswich.

When Harry Sorensen started the business, some of the most iconic cars ever made were being driven.

Back then panel beating wasn't a trade you could learn, but Harry loved cars so he attended night school doing plumbing and sheet metal courses before starting the panel beating business near the local fire station in 1953.

Then three years later he purchased land on the corner of Tiger and Boardman streets where the panel and paint shop has seen three generations of Sorensens work and grow.

Bruce aged 18 (who has since passed away) Gary aged 16 and Harry Sorensen, 45 in 1967.
Bruce aged 18 (who has since passed away) Gary aged 16 and Harry Sorensen, 45 in 1967. Contributed


Harry's sons Gary, Ken and their late brother Bruce all worked at the shop, starting at ages 16 and 17.

All of the Sorensen boys have painstakingly restored classic cars of their own using the skills they learnt from the job.

You could say they got the car bug from Harry, who made his own Austin 7, fashioning the bonnet and other components himself back in the day.

Harry, 93, retired 25 years ago aged 68, Gary retired four years ago after 45 years in the business and this year would have made 45 years for Ken.

Bruce who lost his life to cancer in 2004 aged 54, started working in the shop aged 17 and taught his younger brother Ken the job at college where he was a teacher.

A third generation of Sorensens followed on from their grandfather's footsteps when Gary's son Mel became a spray painter 24 years ago.

Gary's son Todd started a few years later and worked at the shop for 10 years before branching out on his own and Ken's son Matt followed his father into panel beating seven years ago.

Now the panel and paint business mainly works on modern Mazda 3s, Holdens and Fords, with a few classics thrown in from time to time.

While there's been some changes to the way panel and paint shops work over the years as more technology is introduced its largely still a hands on business.

The only thing that hasn't changed was the hourly rate, Ken said, it's been $25 an hour since 1995.

Ken, who is currently the manager, said shutting the doors was "the end of an era and very sad times".

The operation would eventually have had to close, but times had been tough for a few years.

"We've been here a long time, we didn't want to shut just yet, but we were driven out when insurance companies directed the work to one or two panel shops in town," he said.

"There are other shops hurting because of this and its been a battle.

"When you ring the insurance company they want you to go to their repairer or they won't guarantee the work, but the panel beater does.

"You have the choice of repairer.

"Don't let them tell you where to take it."

He wants customers to stand firm when it comes to choosing their own repairer warning that other panel and paint businesses would shut if they didn't.

He wanted to thank every Ipswich Guard and Body customer from over the years for their business.

"Hopefully you find someone of your choice so you don't have to wait three months to get the job done or put up with substandard repairs."

The business will keep running as normal until the end of February.

Topics:  ipswich ipswich business panel beater

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